The French jets will replace a few still operational Soviet-era MiG-21s — first developed in the 1950s — whose resources expire in 2024. Most of the MiGs were originally snatched from the Yugoslav military which tried to stop Croatia’s secession from the former Serb-dominated federation.
Croatia’s government on Wednesday approved the purchase of 12 Rafale fighter jets from France worth about 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) to replace its aging fleet of Soviet-era aircraft and strengthen its air force amid lingering tensions in the Balkans.
The contract for the used jets is expected to be signed during the visit of French President Emmanuel Macron to Croatia on Thursday. It will be the first visit by France’s head of state to Croatia since it split from the former Yugoslav federation in the 1991-95 war.
The selection of the French aircraft, announced in May, followed a long bidding process that was plagued by delays. Other offers had included new F-16s from the United States, new JAS-39 Gripen planes from Sweden, and used F-16s from Israel.
Government officials said Wednesday the purchase of the aircraft will cover Croatia’s needs to protect its skies for the next 30 years and the package will include missiles and a training process for Croatian pilots.
© Copyright LaPresse